August 1, 2015
Online Journal - What it Means to be a Great Teacher
Heidi Mallard, Teacher, Peace Christian School, Chetwynd, BC

I have always wanted to be the best. When I was younger, I wanted to be the fastest runner. If I didn’t win a race, I would keep practicing until I did. I wanted my gym teacher to be proud. I wanted to prove to him that I was a strong, persevering athlete. Not only did this thirst for perfection happen in sports, but also in my academics. I was hard on myself, seeking for approval from all of my teachers. I wanted to be the best that I could be. My dad would often tell me, “Heidi, if your best gives you a B or even a C, I am proud of you.” He also went on to say, “I want you to live a balanced life. Push yourself to work hard and invest your time in your academics, sports, relationships, and most importantly, stay close to God.” Those precious words from my father are so simple, but yet so deep.
 
My love for teaching has been inspired through my strong connections with some of the teachers that taught me. Not only did they teach me how to read and write, but they also instilled a desire in me to learn and to explore. William Arthur Ward states: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”  The teachers that motivated me to dream were the ones I remembered the most. So here I am, a teacher who has finished her second year, and I ask myself, “How can I inspire and motivate my students?”
 
I would like to begin answering this question by stating how it is a blessing to be surrounded by teachers who have pushed themselves to do their best. They have created a positive, loving, and inviting learning environment. Not only is their purpose to teach the content of the curriculum, they also teach God’s grace and love to their students to the best of their abilities. An important characteristic of being a “great teacher” is to model what you teach. “The teacher can gain the respect of his pupils in no other way than by revealing in this own character principles which he seeks to teach them. Only as he does this in daily association with them can he have a permanent influence over them for good” (White). In my own teaching experiences, I have noticed  that when I talk excitedly about my personal connections integrated with the content, student eyes widen with curiosity. It is also a great joy to see a student teach another using similar techniques that you use in the classroom. What makes it even greater is when the receiving student understands and then passes on the newfound knowledge to another. To be able to watch what you have taught being passed on is truly a blessing, for as Og Madino says, “Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.”
 
Ultimately, I love to teach. I could choose to take an interpretation created by my siblings that I was incredibly bossy as a child, or too strict because I was persistent to give my siblings a list of activities daily to keep them busy. But all jokes aside, along with my father, several others, and myself included, I believe God gave me the gift of teaching. With that gift, I need to remember to model what I teach, demonstrate God’s love and grace, and to do my best in all I do. It is crucial to remember that teachers never stop learning, and to tell their students that learning does not end in grade 12, but will be carried on in their lives after school. “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn” (Phil Collins).  May we not only focus on details of curriculum, but also remember to reflect God’s love in our personal lives, and to teach our students to pursue a life with God in the center.
 
~Ellen G. White, Education, p. 277